A friend recently built a roof over one of her two decks, and when I saw the nearly-finished project thus morning I was reminded of Jamaica.
Other nooks in her vast yard speak of Bali, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Belize. And it’s no wonder: she’s well-travelled, and makes a point to pick up a bit of the culture from each destination. This morning we discussed her tentative plans to see the Amazon River.
Visiting her home is like taking a brief vacation to the tropics.
Sadie’s sudden barking this afternoon tipped us off that someone was on the front porch.
Upon investigation, a pair of giggling girls was spied skipping through our court distributing flyers to each of the seven houses.
Here it is:
I found myself tempted to traipse over to the makeshift drink stand the little girls had contrived just to ask for an Arizona Ice Tea.
And perhaps because I am of a certain age, the words Mystery Drink conjure images of the Grateful Dead’s famous parties.
‘My honor student gets pierced at Zebra Tattoo and Piercing.’
I visited a friend’s house today. One of her neighbors was hosting a large party. A few women stood on the sidewalk outside the house, smoking and talking. They stared at me suspiciously, in silent challenge, as I walked across the street. I thought nothing of it in that moment.
Later, as I stood on my friend’s deck admiring her cedar trees, I heard a woman yelling, and a man responding in seeming confusion. The woman’s voice progressively frantic, angry curses hurled at the man. I imagined the two, facing off in the driveway of that house just across the street; trees obscured my view.
I waited for the yelling to subside, wondering just how long I might be imprisoned by the cedars. But, it continued, crescendoing then suddenly choking out into wordless sobs. The man’s voice by now grew bold, and he told the other women to leave, go back into the house. I heard their murmurs, echoing from the valley of the street to my perch on the deck, my nest and refuge. He repeated the order, loudly. The women’s murmurs grew faint, and then I heard them no more.
And again, the woman raised her cries, unpredictably breaking into angry shrieks, then exhausted sobs.
I decided I could not linger on the deck forever.
As I walked to my car, I glanced down the sidewalk, listening. The man held the woman’s arms from behind, struggling to hold her up as she alternately struggled then fell limp. His eyes met mine for a brief moment; his filled with desperate frustration and mine cautiously inexpressive.
He said to the woman, ‘Do I need to call the police to take you back to jail?’
And then I heard the words behind her sobs, those sobs I had earlier thought inarticulate: ‘I’m not good enough for any of you. I’m not good enough.’
I drove home, reflecting. This pathetic, angry creature was someone’s daughter, perhaps someone’s sister, or mother, or auntie. Would the right response to such a cry be: ‘of course you are good enough, because you are one of us.’
But what if she was not one of us? What if she is one of those who live in the shadows of our lives, constantly failing to connect her heart with any other living and breathing soul? What then are these disjointed, isolated ones in the drama of our own lives?
As a childless adult, the biological imperative to reproduce occasionally grabs a bullhorn and shouts into my ears. There is no rational component of the longing, and as I am of an age when it is both unlikely that I would be able to carry a child, and unrealistic for my husband and I to start raising one, I am content to sit back quietly until the hormones settle down and cease their annoying antics.
Today after running several errands I dropped by a Subway sandwich shop to grab something quick and marginally healthy for dinner, as my husband and I were planning to stay at home to watch movies. And ahead of me in line was a woman, not much younger than I, with her son.
It was clear that the pair had been in the shop for some time. The child, who appeared to be about 10 years old, had laid his head on the counter in frustration as his mother hollered at him about whether he wanted bacon on his sandwich, then turned to bellow questions toward the young countergirl about the price of the sandwich. When the girl pointed out that bacon was 50 cents extra, the customer became irate and in rapid-fire language listed numerous alternatives – which soon seemed to cause the Subway employee some great confusion.
I almost left the shop, but for concern that the child’s mother might launch herself across the counter onto the countergirl, like a great white fighting rooster taking down a downy chick. All of a sudden I realized that my fear of watching The Exorcist was unreasonable; the reality of overwrought suburban moms is far, far scarier.
Later, I took comfort in my childlessness, as there but for the absence of God go I.